May 10, 2009, 07:03 PM
Well...at least we avoided the sweep.

That's about all you can say about this weekend's series with the Reds.

Cincinnati's lineup really exposed the Cardinals pitching.

Pineiro...6IP/8Hits/5Runs/4Earned
Lohse...6IP/9Hits/7Runs/7Earned
Wainwright...6IP/7Hits/4Runs/4Earned

While it's nice to see all of our starters give us six innings...it doesn't help us much if they're six "ugly" innings. In a three game series where the Cardinal hitters were able to plate 15Runs...you'd think we'd come away with more than just one W.

And to tell you the truth...Larussa got bailed out on the W today.

Up by two runs in the bottom of the 8th, Larussa started getting fancy with relief pitchers. He brought in Motte to face Hernandez (who promptly singled to RF). Then after Thurston's error cost the Cards a double play on Rosales' grounder to short...Tony went to the bullpen again playing the lefty lefty matchup with Miller against Dickerson. Miller gets Dickerson to fly out to Duncan and you've got two outs, runner on second, Votto up at the plate. Perfect, right? Votto is a lefty and you've got your lefty specialist on the mound. But what does Larussa do? He goes to the pen yet again.

Now, I realize that Votto is perhaps the best hitter in the Reds lineup. And that Franklin has been the best pitcher in the Cards pen. But to go to your "closer" with two outs in the 8th...especially when you've already got a favorable matchup with Miller and Votto. It's just not smart baseball. On top of that, they basically decided NOT to pitch to Votto (walking him on four pitches). Couldn't Miller have done that???

So now you've got Franklin out there with a pitch count of four without really having even faced a batter. He then punches out Taveras and the Cards are out of the 8th. But now...now Franklin has to go back to the dugout and wait a half inning before he's able to record another out.

In today's game, closers have developed into "three-out trick ponies". They have the stuff, and the mentality, to go out there and dominate for three outs. They're just not conditioned for those half innings spent waiting around in the dugout. So it was no surprise when Franklin gave up his first run of the year on a solo shot to the first batter of the ninth.

He did manage to settle down and get two outs before the Reds brought in pinch pitcher...I mean pinch "hitter" Micah Owings. It was a particularly good at bat. Owings worked it to a full count and managed to foul off three good pitches from Franklin. But, before it was all said and done, Owings bested Franklin by putting one into the leftfield seats to tie the game.

How?! That's all I could say when I watched it leave the yard.

Not...

"How could a pinch hitting pitcher have hit a homerun against our closer?!"

Because we all know that Owings is a better hitter right now than he is a pitcher (Can anyone say "Rick Ankiel 2.0"?)

But rather...

"How could Larussa have put Franklin into that situation?"

I have no doubt in my mind that Franklin could've gotten Owings out had he not been involved at all with the 8th inning.

By the time he threw his last pitch he was spent! I know, I know. Franklin used to be a starter. Franklin has thrown two innings before. But Franklin is the "CLOSER" now. We all knew he was a good setup guy. And as much as I hate to admit, he's been pretty damn good as a closer so far this year. But he can't be BOTH. Larussa can't just throw him out there and say "Set it up and close it out".

In any case, thanks to the Cardinal hitters, we were able to put up a W today and avoid the sweep. But I think this series showed us a lot about the state of the pitching staff and Larussa's mental state...

Thoughts???

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